Misinformation x 4

Incorrect and misleading information is rife

Sometimes misinformation on public transport can be worse than no information.

I’ve noticed four examples on my local rail line.

Which platform?

This signage has been in place for years. It used to be correct.

Signage at Ormond showing incorrect information

The problem is that it’s no longer right. Since the Glen Huntly level crossing removal last year, all Frankston-bound trains normally use platform 3.

The incorrect signs are at Patterson, McKinnon and Ormond.

I sent in feedback to PTV about this in January. Obviously ideally they’d replace it with the correct wording, but a quick fix would be to just remove the signs pending later replacement. So far they haven’t done anything.

(Case number 2024/34677 if anybody from PTV is reading.)

Next train?

Observed at Patterson, Bentleigh and Glen Huntly, but possibly the case at other stations too – some trains regularly go missing from the screens at the entrance.

In this example, the 6:26pm train is shown on the platform screen, but it’s missing from the screen at the entrance.

Platform vs Station entry screens at Patterson, showing contradictory information

This means you might think you’ve got 10+ minutes to negotiate the ramp or stairs or lift to get to the platform (or even go get a coffee first), but actually your train is imminent. Which means you may miss it.

This was flagged with Metro about a year ago, but is still happening.

UPDATE 7pm: Prompted by the comments, I loitered suspiciously at the entrance to Patterson station to observe more closely tonight. Two trains disappeared five minutes before departure. Given you can walk up the ramp to the platform in about 30 seconds, this seems over the top.

Screen at the entrance to Patterson station, missing the next two departures. They disappear 5 minutes ahead of time.
Snapped at 6:33pm. Not shown are two trains departing in less than five minutes.

I think both the trains were a couple of minutes late, so it’s also possible the threshold is 2 or 3 minutes, but based on the scheduled time rather than the actual time… which would also be silly.

However, I also noted tonight at Flinders Street on the entrance screens: departures showing 1 and 2 minutes. So if the purpose is to stop people hurrying, it’s inconsistently applied.

All trains are Limited Expresses

Normally most trains stop all stations, and there are some express trains during peak.

But at the moment, Parkdale station is closed for level crossing removal works.

The problem – every single train is now described as a “Limited Express”.

Screen at Flinders Street showing every train as a Limited Express
Some Limited Express trains are stopping all stations (except one)
  • Trains stopping all stations except Parkdale are shown on the station entry screens, platform screens and the PTV app as Limited Express
  • Trains running express South Yarra-Caulfield-Cheltenham are also shown as Limited Express.

If you’re not already on the platform, then the only way you can tell the difference (thus know whether you should hustle to get to the platform) is to spend time clicking around in the app. Or just hustle anyway.

People have sent feedback into Metro about this. It’s been months – it seems they’re not going to fix it – perhaps because while it’s very confusing, it’s not technically incorrect.

At least for us on the Frankston line it’s a temporary issue.

The problem is a permanent one for other lines.

  • On the Sunbury line all trains skip South Kensington, so all are “Limited Express“, even though some also skip from Footscray to Sunshine
  • On the basketcase Ringwood lines (where virtually all trains skip East Richmond but many stop at all other stations) they also use this

Didn’t such trains used to be labelled as “All except X”? That’s much more informative than “Limited Express”.

The next stop is… no it’s not.

Observed on Comeng and Siemens trains: at Ormond, McKinnon and Bentleigh the automatic announcements and in-carriage displays commonly show the wrong station. They get ahead of themselves by a stop.

Screens inside trains showing the incorrect station
A train arriving at Ormond claiming it’s at McKinnon, and a train arriving at Bentleigh claiming it’s at Patterson. (Click to zoom)

It only seems to happen for outbound trains. You have to double-check what the displays and announcements are saying against the signs on the platform, or you might hop out at the wrong stop.

All these issues can add up to confusion, especially for new and occasional users. And this is just on one line.

The train system has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, but some basic information is still wrong. More improvement needed.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

19 replies on “Misinformation x 4”

There’s actually a bit of logic to not showing the train on the concourse displays particularly when it’s departing within a minute.

Stops people running for it.

I’ve seen the PID entrance-to-platform mismatch all across the network. I had assumed it was deliberate and that there was a threshold of a couple of minutes after which the entrance would no longer display the next arrival, maybe to prevent people running through the station for safety reasons (similar to how the platform PID changes to ‘stand clear’ in the last few seconds of train boarding time). I don’t think making the network more confusing is the right decision for safety. And I wouldn’t have to rush for the train if I knew there was always going to be another one only a few mins away!

Hi Daniel
The Platform Information Display on platform 3 at Camberwell frequently shows incorrect information for Alamein trains. For example, a Lilydale train can be shown as an Alamein until it stops. Bad luck on any passenger who doesn’t keep their eyes wide open.
At Flinders Street station, the displays fail to mention that Alamein passengers can catch a Belgrave or Lilydale train and change at Camberwell. It’s only once on the platform that the information is shown.
Announcements and displays on Burnley group trains going through the loop are often incorrect, some insisting that every loop station is Parliament or Southern Cross.
The newish platform displays at Richmond that show all lines, their platforms and next trains don’t mention Alamein except when there are direct peak hour trains on weekdays yet, of course, passengers can catch Belgrave or Lilydale trains and change at Camberwell.
All this nonsense can’t encourage train use.

Was on an in bound Glen Waverly train this week, rolling into Kooyong the train was still displaying ‘now arriving at Gardiner’

I wonder if the next trains going missing from station entry screens is intention, so travellers don’t run for the train? Albeit, 2 minutes is more than enough time to get from the entry to the train on most suburban stations.
The All except X, is more logical than limited express, but I don’t support the wordy announcements that say ‘stopping all stations from X to Y, express to Z, stopping all stations from U to V’ – that’s the most unhelpful approach, since you have to listen very carefully to follow each announcement, which might be one of four or more concurrent station announcements, eg. at a city station, at the moment when you just need the info quickly, if you’re not a regular commuter on that line, and there’s no PIDs within view. That begs the question why there aren’t PIDs at the exit of every escalator at loop stations.

Not sure I like the black text on white (with the yellow) that’s now been rolled out on the Sunbury line – definitely harder to read. Although I haven’t been through Footscray since so I haven’t noticed whether the yellow/green colours make a difference to distinguish the lines on the concourse display (which of course only shows four trains).

I’ve definitely noticed outbound trains either not appear or appear late on the concourse at West Footscray (and probably not on time either) but there is definitely not time to get to the bottom of the ramp unless you run.

And the limited express problem has gone on ever since the PIDs were upgraded – yes they used to be All except SKN so you could distinguish those that didn’t stop at Tott-WeFo-MidFo.

And I can’t remember which train type still has the static announcements about which line it is – but makes no sense to continually tell me on an outbound that it’s a limited express service not stopping at South Kensington and running direct to Watergardens when I’m well past the train having run through both Southern Cross and South Kensington.

And of course all trains to Geelong are ‘limited express’ since they don’t stop at Ardeer even if they stop at the rest (although likely they’ve also missed either Little River/Corio or North Shore at a minimum) although you the full display for the detail!

Why did they start using Platform 3 all the time anyway since the Glen Huntly works? It doesn’t seem to make much sense and it was always better having the freight trains come through on Platform 3, instead of Platform 2, in my opinion.

At times I’ve seen things that made no sense to me but then I wonder, did I make a mistake. As a casual train user, I don’t get to return and check.

I’ve had approaching trains disappear from the PTV app when there has been plenty of time for me to reach a platform.

Express conjures up a mental image of speed, a fast journey. Not stopping at one station is anything but express.

Country services are especially atrocious when it comes to ‘next stop’ displays. The system regularly goes out of whack and, unlike with Metro, if you miss your stop you could be in for many hours’ wait.

What’s crazy is that the trains are fitted with GPS. Once the train number is allocated, there’s no reason trains shouldn’t be able to update announcements based on their stopping patterns and GPS coordinates.

The missing trains on the external PID is deliberate, I believe. Always hated the way they did that at Parliament. They never show anything less than 3 minutes. Presumably to stop people rushing and causing a safety issue. Side effect is that I would presume there was a train in 30s and RUN down the escalators as fast as I could. Probably saved myself 10 minutes at least once a week. They need to trust people more with their own safety.

And I hate the silly limited express thing. Just remove it from the line definition. Make it “stopping all open stations”. I also hate it when the audible announcements say “Stopping all stations to station 4, running express from station 4 to station 6, then running all stations to station 10, then running express to station 12, then stopping all stations to the end” You just want to reach into the speaker and punch it :-) “Stopping all stations except 5 and 11” is SOOO much simpler to say and sooo much simpler to understand. It’s also easy to program – don’t use the “running express” phrasing for 1 missing stop.

I agree with the problem of Sunbury line trains being “Limited Express” when only one station is skipped (South Kensington, and this wil be gone when the Metro tunnel opens). But the problem of mutliple announcements can be a can of worms for me, as making it simpler might cause people to miss information that is important and may catch the wrong train. And remember that there are people with disabilities that might the audio information (especially those who are blind) who need as much information as they need as they might not be able to see the PIDs, so understanding the stopping pattern would be necessary for them so they don’t board the wrong train.

And I might not be popular here, but I feel that the coloured displays are better as the skipped stations are greyed out and people know that that particular station is skipped. I also feel that it is easier on the eye as black on white is very common (especially with books which is black text on white paper), and white on black might be harder to read. Just my opinion.

The thing I’d love to see “fixed” is to have many more signs at each station showing the station name. We recently travelled on the Frankston line to & from the city and at most stations when the train was stopped, I could not see a sign to tell me where I was, without craning – if the train had been more crowded I would have had NO chance of working this out. The display in the train simply said “Welcome to Metro” and there were no voice over announcements. In that sort of situation I imagine it to be very easy to miss your stop!

Hi Daniel,

I think the platform/external display gap is intentional to stop people sprinting through the stations to make a train which is about to leave.. just an observation as it is consistent across differents stations.

Personally I’m annoyed with the Limited Express messages – a station being closed, like Parkdale, means it’s stopping all stations (that are open).
But the bigger message is that Metro doesn’t care about the User Experience, perhaps because these issues have little impact on their payments from the State. We’ll keep using it, despite these annoyances and frustrations, and they know it.

Thanks for the comments about trains disappearing off screens with a couple of minutes to go to discourage people from hurrying. I’ve added an update and a photo above: at Patterson they disappear with FIVE minutes to go :-/

There’s a big focus on building new infrastructure, or trains, or stations – but it’s these details that really make the difference between a good public transport system and a half arsed one.

I’m certain there are people that care about these details in the relevant organisations, but there don’t seem to be enough of them, and they don’t seem to be in charge. This stuff really matters, and it’s super cheap to get right.

Automated announcements on platforms used to only be made when a train was imminent. Now they’re made when a train is about five minutes away as well. Neither announcement gives any indication of when the train mentioned is due.

I wonder whether the “next station” annoucements are driven by GPS positions or via fixed asset detection. How can we stuff up something this simple that is done everywhere else in the world decades ago!

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